At a debate the night before, the New York businessman sought to appear more presidential than he had been in other recent debates. He was pressed at length on details of his foreign policy views, exposing surprising and, to some, alarming positions on issues such as how to handle the quagmire in the Middle East. Military experts raised eyebrows at his statement that he would consider deploying 20,000 to 30,000 American ground troops in Syria and Iraq.
Those experts said it did not reflect any current thinking among military experts, even by the most hawkish analysts.
“I know of no active-duty or recently retired military officers who fought in Iraq or Syria who would say this was a good idea,” said Mark P. Hertling, a retired three-star general who commanded 30,000 American troops in northern Iraq. “I’m not sure where any of those numbers are coming from. None of them are based on what we call troop-to-task analysis.”
General Hertling said the United States might have to deploy additional resources to Iraq when the Iraqi military prepared to retake the country’s second-largest city, Mosul, from the Islamic State. But under the plans being prepared by the Pentagon, that would consist of advisers to help collect and analyze intelligence or to pilot drones, not ground troops.